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Commissioners OK second phase of COVID-19 protection plan

SALISBURY — At a special meeting on Tuesday, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners approved a bid from Vertex Construction to implement phase two of a plan to safeguard county facilities against the spread of COVID-19.

The two-part COVID-19 plan uses money from the CARES Act to bring county facilities up to health standards. Part one of the plan, known as the “common solutions” phase, was implemented by Salcoa Construction and featured the implementation of easy-to-install solutions such as antibacterial tape and touchless fixtures in nearly 20 county buildings.

Phase two, called the “design solutions” phase, will be more involved and feature the implementation of plastic barriers, communication devices and touch-free entryways. Phase two will  focus heavily on implementing solutions at the courthouse, the tax office and other county departments at 402 N. Main St., as well as West End Plaza.

Salcoa submitted a bid to complete the design solutions phase, but the company’s $893,400 bid was significantly higher than Vertex’s $570,027 bid. State law requires that counties approve the lowest bid.

Commissioners were scheduled to vote on approval of a bid for phase two at a meeting on Oct. 19, but since only two bids were submitted, the bid process had to be re-advertised. Vertex and Salcoa Construction, both companies based in Salisbury, were the only two bidders once again, but state law permitted the county to move forward.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners called Tuesday’s special meeting to approve the bid because the project must be completed by Dec. 30 for expenses to be reimbursed by the federal government.

After approving Vertex’s bid, commissioners also approved a request from Pete Bogle of the Bogle Architecture Firm to advertise for bids for temperature check tunnels. Bogle said that two tunnels have been requested for the Rowan County Courthouse to replace the manual handheld temperature checking devices that are being used at entrances now. The temperature checking tunnels would cost about $35,000 each. Bogle said the courthouse would place one tunnel at its primary entrance on North Main Street and another at its entrance on Liberty Street.

Although commissioners approved the request to advertise for bids, they aren’t sold on the need for the temperature check tunnels.

Commissioner Mike Caskey expressed his skepticism about the long term benefits of investing in the machines.

“Are we saying that we’re going to do this forever now,” Caskey asked. “Even after COVID is over, we’re still going to check everyone’s temperature?”

Chairman Greg Edds seconded those concerns and said that he was “not sold on this” and expressed his desire for more information on the topic.

Bogle said commissioners will have the option to approve or deny the bid proposals that the county may receive for the temperature check tunnels.

In other meeting business:

Commissioners approved a request by Rowan County Attorney Jay Dees to publicize the county’s intent to enter into a lease agreement with Perkins Management Services to become the new tenant at the former K&W Cafeteria site. 

Perkins Management Services, a Delaware corporation that operates out of Charlotte, plans on putting a restaurant called Perkins Cafeteria in the space. Like its predecessor, the restaurant will serve Southern-style food. 

Commissioners can’t officially approve the lease agreement until it has been publicized for 30 days, which means that it will likely be approved at the Dec. 7 meeting. Perkins Management Services will pay $5,250 per month for the space for an initial term of five years with an annual increase of 2.5% for rent and common area maintenance. 

Even though the lease agreement won’t be finalized for more than a month, commissioners approved an access agreement that will allow Perkins Management Services to enter the property before then to make improvements and conduct staff training. The access agreement is dependent on the company providing a security deposit for November, a request made by Commissioner Craig Pierce.

• Commissioners received an update from Finance Director Jim Howden on the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund spending through September. Howden said that, taking into account how much phase two will cost, the county is currently projected to have $130,000 left in available funds at the end of the year. That does not include the temperature check tunnel scanners that may or may not be purchased. Commissioners made it clear that they intend to use all of the federal money, which will expire at the end of 2020, and discussed possible uses for the funds. Commissioner Judy Klusman suggested using some to purchase more Narcan, a drug that counteracts opioid overdoses, for the county’s health department. She also questioned whether the money could be used to buy COVID-19 tests that the county may need in 2021. Edds asked for another report on Coronavirus Relief Fund spending Monday, when commissioners hold their regularly scheduled meeting at 3 p.m.

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